Colon Cancer Surgery

Submitted by Nic on November 12, 2012

Colon cancer or large bowel cancer originates in the colorectal lining. Presently, colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Since colon cancer symptoms in the early stages are hardly noticeable, it often only diagnosed in later stages when the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and other organs.

In the treatment of colon cancer, surgery is normally the first choice for most doctors. Following surgery, a combination of chemo and radiation therapy is administered to kill any affected tissue that may have been left behind. This is also a standard procedure in recurrent cancers.

Types of Colon Cancer Surgeries

Types of colon cancer surgery include:

  • Polypectomy: This involves the removal of polyps by means of a colonoscopy.
  • Partial colectomy: In this procedure, the affected portion of the colon is removed.
  • Ileocolectomy (right colectomy): This involves the removal of the right colon. In an ileocolectomy, the lower end of small intestine which is attached to the right side colon is also removed.
  • Abdominoperineal resection: The sigmoid colon, rectum, and anus are removed.
  • Proctosigmoidectomy: Here, the affected portion of the sigmoid colon and rectum are removed.
  • Total abdominal colectomy: In this surgery, the anus and rectum are not removed, but the entire colon is taken out.
  • Total proctocolectomy: In this procedure, both the colon and rectum are removed. If the anus is not affected, the surgeon will not remove it and attach an ileal pouch to ensure normal bowel movement. A permanent ileostomy is required, however, when the anus also needs to be removed.

Terms related to colon cancer surgery include:

  • Stomas: These are artificial openings of the bowel onto the skin. When the colon is opened onto the skin it is called a colostomy, and when the small intestine is opened onto the skin, it is called ileostomy.
  • K pouch: The K pouch is used as a variation to an ileostomy. A K pouch is placed inside the body and a catheter (inserted through the stoma) is used to periodically empty the contents of the pouch.
  • Ileal pouch: This is pouch that is used in place of the rectum and is attached to the anus. The pouch is sometimes made using the lower part of the small intestines.


While the newer less invasive method involves the use of laparoscopy, standard colectomies are open and invasive surgeries.

The procedure involved in a colectomy has been detailed below.

  • A wide incision is made in the patient’s abdomen.
  • The surgeon will then remove the affected part of the colon and the surrounding lymph nodes that are diseased.
  • Next, the remaining part of the colon is attached to the lower end of the small intestines.

Side Effects or Complications

Some of the common side effects or complication of colon cancer surgery include:

  • Irregular bowel movements
  • Bladder complications
  • Sense of urinary urgency
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas and flatulence
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Stoma related complications
  • Sexual dysfunction


Recovery will depend on your age, overall health, and the kind of surgery you underwent. Simple steps to facilitate recovery include:

  • Start to move around as soon as you can.
  • When still in bed, try deep breathing and leg exercises; consult a physiotherapist.
  • You may be give anti-clotting drugs and special stockings.
  • Any drips or tubes that you may have for nutrition should be taken out within a few days.
  • Avoid drinking anything until bowel movement is completely restored; eventually you will be able to eat light food as well.

Hospitalization time can be anything from three to ten days, depending on the type of surgery conducted.


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